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Sunday 3 May 2015

Deluge, Play by Fiona Doyle, Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, 7.5* out of 10

This production of Fiona Doyle's play is based around designer Moi Tran’s inventive set, in which flood water plays a central and effective role in conjuring up a dark and dystopian Irish countryside. 

Incessant rain falls on the Irish countryside, where Joe (Edward Macliam) and his wife Kitty (Elaine Cassidy) are running a farm helped by their farmhand Flan (Gary Lilburn). Partly due to the generosity of Joe’s father the farm has fallen into debt. So it is not only imperative to stem the floods but also to keep the sinister loan sharks at bay. Against this backdrop, the news that Kitty is pregnant may perhaps herald an optimistic future, but to Joe it feels more like a further turn of the screw increasing the escalating difficulties weighing on their enterprise. Add to that the constant threat from thieves who have their eye on the stocks of vital animal fodder and the enormous emotional pressure soon brings them close to reaching breaking point.

Fiona Doyle, award winning full time playwrights since 2012, has written a dark dystopian tale of not very jolly Irish country folk. The production at the Hampstead Theatre downstairs is , which is both gloomy and threatening and gives director Anna Ledwich and the competent acting ensemble quite a bit to work with. And they work with it well, with the water eerily slowing down the protagonists' movements. Of the competent cast, Elaine Cassidy performance stands out. Through no fault of the actor concerned, the use of a single actor for two roles was less successful; investing in two actors, one for Joe and one for pub landlord would have been better.

The story is solid and the dialogues well written, as one would expect from a talented writer. Warm applause ended a satisfying evening of entertaining, quality theatre as one has come to expect from the “Hampstead Downstairs”. I’ll be back.

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